Does Apple Make New iPhones Too Often?

Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Rumors and reports about what Apple will introduce with the iPhone 6s have been circulating for weeks, and the worldwide community of Apple fans is already excited. Because Apple introduces a new iPhone every fall, there’s hardly a month out of the year in which there aren’t rumors or news stories about a new or upcoming iPhone. But that fast release schedule may not be so great, whether for Apple or for the many users who like and own its smartphones.

Mark Sullivan recently reported for VentureBeat that the new iPhone 6s will likely be announced in September, and reports that surfaced early in July said that production of iPhone 6s components had already begun. Foxconn, which assembles the iPhone, is reportedly already taking delivery on parts, and sources say that parts production and assembly will ramp up dramatically in August, ahead of the phone’s fall launch.

The iPhone 6s is expected to look like a slightly thicker iPhone 6, and will feature more memory, upgraded rear-facing and front-facing cameras, and a more efficient antenna. The phone is also likely to bring better power management and battery management technology. It is also rumored to feature Force Touch, the feature first introduced on the Apple Watch, which senses increased pressure and responds with haptic feedback and context-aware options and menus.

But, as Sullivan asks, why is Apple in such a hurry to release the iPhone 6s when the current iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models are still very popular among consumers shopping for a new phone and are, by all accounts, still “killing it” in terms of sales?

After the launch of the iPhone 6, Apple sold 74.5 million iPhones in the final quarter of 2014, setting a new record, and in the subsequent quarter, it sold 61 million iPhones. Apple will announce its earnings for the third quarter on July 21, and Deutsche Bank analyst Sherri Scribner projects that Apple will report sales of about 50 million iPhone 6 devices in the April through June quarter.

But Scribner is concerned that the mobile phone market and the market for iPhones is slowing down, and the anticipation of a new iPhone model could cause it to slow down even faster. Many consumers who were considering the iPhone 6 might be tempted to wait until the iPhone 6s is introduced, even if their contracts expire or their phones seem worn out during the quarter that begins in July and ends in September. By introducing the iPhone 6s, Apple may slow down the momentum of the unusually popular iPhone 6.

Interest in any given iPhone model is necessarily diluted by Apple’s fast release schedule. At any given time, you’re not going to need to wait long for a new iPhone to launch. So if you didn’t buy the iPhone 6, for example, within the first few months of its availability, then early rumors and reports were already tempting you to wait to upgrade until the iPhone 6s is released.

The fast release schedule that Apple maintains for the iPhone also makes it difficult for consumers to get a clear read on when and how the company introduces new innovations into the iPhone lineup. In recent generations, the difference between major new releases and S-models has often been that major releases introduce big hardware and chassis changes, while S-models add what you could consider more innovative, but harder-to-market, additions. It’s easier to sell a larger group of consumers on the major camera upgrades that came with the iPhone 6, for example, than to explain to them why they want Force Touch, which is expected to come to the iPhone 6s.

Even if Apple misses out on the chance to sell more units of the iPhone 6 by introducing the iPhone 6s, the upshot for consumers is that there are more choices. The flip side, however, is that even if you buy a new iPhone this year, there will be a new model to outdate it next year — which makes it tough to decide when the right time is to spring for a new iPhone.

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